{Japan: Eat} Nara’s Sweet Eats: Yomogi Daifuku at Nakatanidou

nara nakatanidou yomogi mochi

In a Nutshell:

  • Who: L and M
  • Where: Nakatanidou.  Located on Sanjo Dori (the main street leading up to Nara Koen from JR Nara Station).  Google map here.
  • When: June 1, 2012
  • *Notes: Website (Japanese), best yomogi daifuku ever!

Full Report:

Once upon a time, my mother used to grow yomogi plants in our backyard.  This meant that as a child I was lucky enough to have fresh, homemade yomogi mochi to snack on.  If you’ve never tried yomogi mochi then you are truly missing out.  Yomogi gives mochi a wonderful flavor and aroma, kind of like a cross between freshly cut grass and green tea.

Then something happened that caused my carefree yomogi mochi eating days to come to an abrupt halt.  To this day nobody knows exactly how it occurred, but somehow the soil surrounding my mother’s yomogi plants became contaminated with gasoline and they all died.  Yes, you read that correctly, gasoline.  And it must have been gallons of the stuff because that area of the backyard smelled just awful.  I have no doubts that if a match had been lit within 6 ft of the gasoline infested patch a fire big enough to burn down the neighborhood would have resulted.  Since the yomogi plants were right next to the fence separating us from the neighbors, my mother immediately pinpointed them as the culprits who murdered her yomogi plants.  But when she sent my father over to confront them (he must have loved that!), they vehemently denied the charges.  Soon after, they moved away and to the present day the mystery of “Who Killed My Mother’s Yomogi Plants” continues.

Well, after that fiasco I still ate yomogi mochi from time to time, but it was always store bought and just never tasted as good as my mother’s.  I had pretty much lost all hope that I would ever be able to eat such delicious yomogi mochi ever again.  That is until I ate the yomogi daifuku at Nakatanidou in Nara.

It was a dark and stormy night.  No, scratch that, it was a bright and sunny day.  In  fact, it was the hottest day we had experienced in Japan on our 3-week trip.  We were in Nara to tour the park and feed some deer and see the Todaiji Temple.  While we were excited to do all of these things, there was nothing to indicate that my life was about to change.

We left Nara Station and started walking up the main road towards Nara Koen.  This street is lined with all kinds of stores and restaurants.  After we had walked for a bit, I spied this wonderful sight:

nakatanidou, nara, men pounding yomogi mochi

I knew right away what was going on: the two men were making yomogi mochi!  I practically ran up to the store and an even more wonderful sight greeted me:

freshly made yomogi daifuku at Nakatanidou

Boxes of freshly made yomogi daifuku lay on the counter practically shouting out EAT ME!  Yomogi daifuku consists of mochi on the outside and azuki (sweet red bean paste) on the inside.  Before you could say “yomogi”, a 3-pack of daifuku was in my hot little hands.

yomogi daifuku

Words cannot explain how good that first bite was.  The mochi itself was beyond fresh, soft yet chewy, and had a wonderful aftertaste of light green tea.  I’ll admit that I am not the biggest fan of azuki (too sweet for me) but it tasted divine matched with the mochi.  In case you’re wondering what the tan powder on the daifuku is, it’s kinako (soybean powder).

M said he didn’t want any but I made him take a bite.  After that bite, he ended up taking one daifuku for himself.  Which left two for me and it was just not enough.  I told M I was going to get another box but he urged me to wait until after our visit to Nara Koen.  And so it was another couple of hours before I was able to get back to the shop.

nara

nakatanidou storefront

The same two men were still pounding away at the mochi and a number of people were lined up, waiting to get their yomogi daifuku.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this is a very famous shop in Nara.  There are a number of videos on YouTube showing the workers making the mochi (my favorite one here).

So now I can say yomogi mochi as good as my mother’s does exist….too bad it’s all the way in JAPAN!  So who knows when I can ever go back again (we’re not going to Nara or past Nara on this next trip) but I’m thankful just to have had the experience.